Something is very, very wrong...And the Islamic heritage for sale on Ebay

If a rational human being finds any physical or material indicators that there is an ailment ailing them, then this rational, reasonable human being would pause, re-think, and assess the level of deviance from what ought to be normal. He or she would then confront the reality that they may be sick. If you wake up one day and find that you cannot walk straight, that you walk with a constant limp, that you constantly have to rush to the bathroom, or that your eyesight is blurry, then we are coded by God, our Maker, to intuitively think about what ought to be normal and to come to a realization that we have deviated from what is normal. We then confront the reality that there is an ailment.


A rational, reasonable human being, when confronted with the material fact that there is an ailment, will take rational steps to address the ailment. If they continue on as if the ailment does not exist, then we would describe that human being as delusional, irrational, and as possibly having serious psychological and mental problems.


What God has encoded in us, quite simply, is an intuitive sense of wellbeing and an intuitive sense of a lack of wellbeing. This sense of wellbeing is intimately connected with the word ihsan, which means to be in a state of goodness and wellness. It is an intuitive sense. You need no text or written instruction to intuitively know that something is painfully wrong, and to know that you must use your rational faculties to address what is wrong. If you continue doing the same things in life, pretending that what is wrong is not there, then you can be described as irrational or possibly even insane.


Anyone who stands at the podium of the Prophet and looks at our Ummah is overcome by the sense that something is really wrong. First and foremost, of course, is the obscenity that confronts us every day in Gaza. The world has generated charters and documents on human rights and humanitarian law. These are enshrined in the United Nations Charter, in the Universal Declaration for Human Rights, and in the Covenant for Political and Civil Rights. Yet we Muslims wake up to the reality that while the world passed these instruments of human rights in 1948—this being the year the Universal Declaration for Human Rights was passed and the year that, in all earnestness, the UN was born as a lasting reality for the foreseeable future—it was also the same year in which people from around the world, but particularly from Europe, came to colonize the heartland of Islam and its Ummah, Palestine. Whatever historical mythology, beliefs, or facts they used as justification, the reality is that they brought foreign identities, foreign cultures, foreign everything to an indigenous people who were already settled in Palestine for centuries, telling these people, “At the same time we are declaring that all human beings have innate, fundamental rights, that does not apply to you, Palestinians. It does not apply to you, Muslims.” 


So we wake up in our world today and come to terms with the fact that Muslims are the largest refugee group in the world. Muslim countries produce more refugees and displaced human beings than any other religious group. In most cases, the violence that has caused them to be displaced and unsettled involves aggression and violence against Muslims by non-Muslims, including the U.S., France, and Britain, but it also, sadly, includes violence by Muslims against Muslims. 


Something is wrong. We feel it in our bones.


Recently, I posted a recording about the Islamic tradition for sale on eBay. I found Islamic manuscripts, coins, judicial decisions, even firmans from one Qajar ruler to his son all for sale online. An actual firman from a ruler to his son is being sold on eBay, one of the most important historical documents that one can imagine. Another firman from Qajar Persia is being sold on eBay for $25,000. On eBay, one can find helmets worn by Muslim soldiers in the Ottoman or Qajar periods. On eBay, one can find coins that go back to the Abbasid or even the Umayyad era. Coins that were held by our ancestors over a thousand years ago. The Islamic heritage is for sale, and we know that so much of what exists for sale on eBay is precisely because of the violence and displacement of Muslims.


Iraq used to have one of the most important collections of Islamic manuscripts and artifacts, but the Iraqi museum was pillaged after the United States’ invasion, so whatever existed was suddenly offered in the markets of the world. The same happened in Syria. Numerous collections and historical artifacts have been lost and stolen. We even discover that so much of the Islamic tradition in Uzbekistan is now raided and offered for sale on sites like eBay. Muslims were largely powerless as Palestine was colonized, as the very heart of the Muslim Ummah was colonized and annexed, as indigenous people were displaced. Muslims sat largely powerless, even if it hurt them. They were involved in all types of dogma, but not the dogma that would actually make a difference to the fate of indigenous Palestinian people. Similarly, Muslims today can see the Islamic tradition, heritage, and identity being pillaged and sold online, and they display the same powerlessness, the same apathy, the same inaction.

Something is wrong. There is a seriously ill patient, and that patient is us. All indicators show that we are a sick people. I found documents on eBay that came from the heartland of Muslim China. Qur'ans, wills, and other manuscripts are on eBay, and we know fully well that whoever got them out of China to sell them on eBay probably did history a favor, because whatever is part of the Islamic tradition in China is being eradicated, destroyed, and forever demolished, exactly like historical Palestine was erased and demolished.


Something is wrong. Something is really wrong.


And we sit by. We sat by as South Africa brought a case before the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Many of the South African lawyers are now suffering sanctions by the U.S. because they took part in the lawsuit. Their visas to the U.S. are being revoked and they are not being allowed to enter the U.S., just because they brought a case before the ICJ. Where are Muslims? Where are Muslim legal minds? Where are the Muslim graduates from the top law schools in the U.S. and Britain? Where are Muslim countries? Did they even come to South Africa's aid? No. Did they do anything to give any level of effectiveness to the decision by the ICJ? No. Have they done anything to give the ICJ decision any type of political wind? No. When the ICJ issues a ruling, it relies on political power and will to give it any level of effectiveness. The ICJ has neither an army nor  police force. It relies largely on the UN Security Council and the General Assembly to effect its rulings. As South Africa is suffering sanctions by the United States for daring to stand up for Palestinians, where are Muslims? Where are Muslim countries? Did Muslim countries even come to South Africa's aid? No. Did they do anything to give any level of effectiveness to the decision by the ICJ? No. Did they exert any level of pressure to get the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to move on the indisputable evidence of genocide that organizations like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty, which are not Muslim organizations, presented? Are Muslim countries busy with that? No.

Something is really wrong.


What, then, are Muslim countries busy with? Egypt is building a walled enclosure in Sinai for the expected refugees from Gaza. Egypt, a Muslim country of over 100 million people, is helping Israel by building a concentration camp to imprison Palestinians. This enclosure for refugees will be guarded by the Egyptian army and police, so we know the brutality that will follow. In fact, we are so unwell, as Muslims, that the brutality of the Egyptian army and police will exceed the brutality of the Israeli army and police. Israel knows it, the U.S. knows it, and all world powers know that Muslims are far more brutal toward Muslims than any foreigner can ever be. 


What are Muslims doing? What is the United Arab Emirates, the wonderful country that has offered us the Abrahamic Accords, doing? As the genocide proceeds, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Bahrain, and, of course, the UAE are meeting and drawing up plans and agreements with the U.S. 


Now, this is a doozy. Mohammed Dahlan is a man just like Haftar of Libya, Hemedti of Sudan, and Sisi of Egypt. He is famous for his brutality against fellow Palestinians. Dahlan has tortured and murdered fellow Palestinians to appease Israel. His brutality is so mythical that even Mahmoud Abbas, who is no friend of human rights himself, thought that Dahlan was too much, too excessive, and too radical. As a result, Mahmoud Abbas had a huge fallout with Dahlan. 


And who took Dahlan in and embraced him? It was, of course, the UAE, Hamza Yusuf's sponsor.


Dahlan gave a recent interview in the New York Times in which the journalist noted that Dahlan lives in a palace in the UAE with Bentleys parked outside. In the interview, Dahlan clearly outlines the vision discussed by Muslim countries as to the future of Gaza. Who is going to take over in this vision? No other than Dahlan, Israel's man, the UAE’s man, and America's man. A fascist. A brutal murderer in every sense of the word. But because his crimes are against fellow Muslims, the U.S. loves him. The U.S. adores him. Fellow Muslims can see a government like the UAE embrace, sponsor, and promote a man like Dahlan and yet not be offended. Not resign from their Shura councils. Not resign from their fiqh councils. They can still say, "Well, yes, we received an invitation to meet the Pope on his visit in the UAE."

 Something is really, really wrong. Our soul is rotten.


The Arab countries say that after Israel is finished with its genocide, Abbas will remain as a nominal figurehead, but the figure in effective control of post-genocide Palestine will be Dahlan. None other than Dahlan, the man who has tortured and murdered more Palestinians than most, if not all, generals in the Israeli army. He is sponsored by the UAE, and he is being prepped to take over. So, Egypt builds the concentration camps, and Dahlan pushes the population to the concentration camps in Egypt. Israel does to Gaza whatever it wants, and we keep going on. Muslims are so far from controlling anything about their fate.


When we look around, we are haunted by the Islamic heritage being pillaged on eBay. I was once approached by a dealer of Islamic manuscripts, an American, who offered to deliver 3,000 Islamic manuscripts from Timbuktu, Morocco, West Africa, Sudan, Somalia, and Mauritania. I could not afford the price he was asking for, so he told me, very comfortably, "I know the people who will buy these manuscripts will not be Muslim, because I can count on the fact that non-Muslims will pay the price." Of course, no amount of begging and pleading allowed me to get the manuscripts to a price that I could possibly afford, but the man gave me a parting gift of a single page ripped out of a manuscript. My parting gift was a living proof of the obscenity inflicted against our history. I never saw the man again, but that is the black market. It is even worse than the Islamic heritage pillaged on places that are, at least, open and accessible to all, like eBay. 


We must pause and get to the heart of the matter.


Imagine you are approached by a Muslim sister who tells you a horrifying story. She is a convert, an educated woman with advanced degrees who has found Islam. She  is eager to embrace her Muslim brothers and sisters, and she ends up marrying a well known student of Hamza Yusuf only to confront horrific abuse. Those Muslims who are fine with the UAE, fine with Dahlan, fine with what the UAE did to the Yemenis, Libyans, and the Sudanese. These same Muslims do nothing to stem or in any way prevent abuse afflicted by this Muslim in good standing. Of course, he is a medical doctor. So, as a medical doctor, he is recognized as a great shaykh and faqih, because that is the way Muslims work. He has the money, so he has everyone's approval. It does not matter that the cost is another woman convert who discovers that there is something really, really wrong.


This is a pattern. This is not once or twice. These are not isolated incidents. Many convert women have personally told me about the abuses they suffer from shayukh who pretend to give them ruqyah, who tell them, “We are fighting evil spirits and will bless you,” and then use the opportunity to molest these women. The people who commit these crimes are in good standing. They are on Shura councils. They are on every Islamic organization. Something is really wrong.


As Gazans are being butchered, the Uyghur Muslims are being eradicated, and the Rohingya are being exterminated, what are imams talking about? They cannot even stand up for the honor of their fellow sister, let alone the Palestinian people, the Uyghurs, or the Rohingya. Something is really, really wrong.


God told us that in this message there are ayat muhkamat and that these verses are Umm al-Kitab, and there are ayat mutashabihat (Q 3:7). Because we are myopic and lost the path, what we understood from this is that there are clear and literal commandments in the Qur'an, which are muhkamat, and that mutashabihat are the more ambiguous or esoteric verses that we possibly do not understand, such as the verse that says everything in creation does dhikr but that we do not understand their dhikr (Q 17:44). This was itself a historical deviation and error that has led to disastrous results. When God talks about ayat muhkamat that are Umm al-Kitab (Q 3:7), God is talking about the moral obligations that bind us as Muslims, the moral obligations that cannot be negotiated or compromised. In Surah al-Nisa’, God ties not associating partners with God to a code and an ethic of ihsan (goodness and beauty). But to whom? To parents, relatives, orphans, the poor, the neighbor, the neighbor's neighbor, refugees, wayfarers, the displaced, and those over whom you have power—not necessarily slaves, but anyone who is at your mercy because you possess power over them (Q 4:36). In Surah al-Nisa’, God defines the core of what Islam is. 


God reminds us again, this time more forcefully, in Surah al-An'am. Those who listened to my tafsir of the Qur'an would know the importance of Surah al-An'am, when it was revealed, and why it was revealed. But in the middle of the surah, God talks precisely about the ayat muhkamat, the spinal cord of the Islamic message, and teaches us what this message is about. God teaches us to not associate partners with God, to honor our parents, to not murder children out of fear of poverty and to abstain from morally obscene acts (Q 6:151). There is also an emphasis on honoring the sanctity of human life and not stealing from the disempowered, like orphans.


God then sums it up by telling us to be just and fair to people (Q 6:152). Again, in Surah al-Isra’, God gives us a moral code that, I submit to you, is the ayat muhkamat, the heart and soul of the Islamic message (Q 3:7). Again, God appeals to our innate sense of morality. God tells us to honor our parents, neighbor, the neighbor of the neighbor, the orphan, the displaced, the refugee, and the poor (Q 17:23-34). God then tells us to have a keen sense of justice (Q 17:35). But a keen sense of justice based on what? It is based on honoring your obligations. If you say you are going to do something, do it. If you promise something, you must honor your promise. Obligations matter. “In whatever you do, be fair and just” (Q 17:35).


Notice that all this can mean nothing, or it can mean everything. It depends on the morality of the receiver. If God is talking to people with heightened moral awareness, if they read that they must stand firm for justice, then they immediately think of abused women and say, "I do not care what it will cost, I will stand by them. Maybe I cannot save my Palestinian brethren and sisters being massacred in Gaza, but in God's name, I will stand for the honor of these women who are abused by unethical men wearing the garbs of shaykhs and imams." If you are devoid of a moral sense, however, if your innate awareness has nothing, then these things will mean nothing to you because you are empty and corrupt from the inside.


This message could be a message of liberation to those who have moral awareness and a firm commitment to morality. Or it could be a bad, lousy joke, as it is for so many Muslims who think that this religion is about hijabs, beards, and theatrical performances of piety. 


I remind all of you that I was banned from the Islamic Center of Southern California because I spoke out against one of the worst dictators Egypt has ever known, a butcher and a murderer, and most Muslims thought that it is not their problem. They can continue going to the Islamic Center of Southern California. They think that they have no beef in this fight. That is precisely why there is something really wrong with us.

Similarly, if we bothered to put some level of attention and energy into knowing the human rights record of a murderer and butcher like Haftar, who is supported by the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the U.S., or Hemedti of Sudan, or Dahlan of Palestine; if we have a moral sense of justice and ethics; then we would say that any country or power that stands in support of a murderer and butcher, a living demon like Dahlan, is a country to which we can have no association. But if we are like most Muslims, then we would say, "Brother, these are complicated matters. We condemn violence in a broad sense." Then what is wrong will remain, and our ailments will remain.


The Qur’anic prescriptions tell us that the heart and core of this faith, what this religion is about, is our parents, our neighbors, the neighbors of our neighbors, the orphans, the disempowered, the weak, the poor, the refugees, the displaced, and above all, justice and the knowledge of what is just.


When I made the video about the pillaging of the Islamic heritage, someone commented, "Well, we do not need any of these books. We have the Qur'an and the Sunna, that is all we need." Yes, we could laugh and say, "What a stupid remark by a stupid person." But this person actually represents the prevailing method of thinking in the Muslim world. It is the same way of thinking that has led us to destroy the Islamic heritage of Hijaz, to destroy the Islamic heritage in Yemen, and that has led us to abandon any meaningful sense of Shura as a way of life. It is this myopic and mechanical way of thinking about texts, the irrelevance of history, and a lack of sensitivity to what history can teach us about justice that has led to the loss of Palestine. It has led to a people who can betray their fellow Muslims, as they have in Gaza, to the point of a full-scale genocide.


I can tell you that most Muslims, even if they believe that the rulers of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and the UAE have betrayed the Palestinian people, will still call Sisi of Egypt a Muslim. If you tell them that he is no Muslim, they will say, "Brother, how can you call someone who says the Shahada a kafir?" Study your book. Study what God says about those who do not honor justice and who consistently violate the scales of justice. Or those who look at someone like MBS and still say he is a Muslim and the caretaker of the Two Holy Sites. Or those who look at someone like MBZ, the ruler of the UAE, and still be honored to receive an invitation to attend a conference, get spoiled, receive gifts and money, or serve on their Shura and Fiqh councils.


Like Habib al-Jifri of Egypt and all the clowns who play the Shaykh game, who put on the garbs of imams and who are not troubled by the massacres in Rabaa, in Syria, in Yemen, or the prisons full of victims in the UAE and Saudi Arabia and who still call these rulers Muslim. That is your problem. That is where the entire problem is. I do not identify with those who have no sense of justice. I do not identify with them as fellow Muslims. Someone who has a sense of justice, even if they do not say the Shahada, is closer to me than someone who says the Shahada but has no sense of justice.


If we wake up to the importance of an innate sense of ethics and morality, to the sense that the Qur'an can only be effective with an ethical and moral people, then maybe, just maybe, all the things we observed that are really, really wrong with us will start taking a turn for the better. As the Prophet said, “As you are, so you will be led.” You will be ruled by rulers who fit your sense of ethics and morality. I do not want to get into arguments about authenticity. To me, it is most definitely an authentic hadith, and all the efforts to impeach it are idiotic.


When the Prophet said, "As you are, you will be ruled," it is, in fact, really terrifying. If this hadith is in fact offering us a diagnostic tool to assess our wellbeing, and if we look around to see a country like Egypt led by the likes of el-Sisi, a country like Saudi Arabia led by the likes of MBS, a country like the UAE led by the likes of MBZ, and if we see all the fascist rulers that dominate Muslim lands and betray Muslim people, then what this diagnostic tool tells us is terrifying. If we deserve the rulers of Iran, the rulers of Syria, Haftar of Libya, Hemedti of Sudan; if we deserve the rulers that manage Muslim organizations and communities in the United States; if we observe their sense of morality, or rather their lack of sense of morality; if this is what we deserve, then that diagnostic tool tells us something really, really terrifying. May we wake up some day.

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